Agonizomai: Malachi 2:8-9 - Fruit of Irreverence

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Malachi 2:8-9 - Fruit of Irreverence

Malachi 2:8-9 - Fruit of Irreverence

Malachi 2:8-9 "... But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction."

The address is specifically to the Levites of Israel. The application, however can be made to us all. This is the section that brings the contrast between what the priests were supposed to do under the covenant and what they were found doing, which fell short of their part. Let’s see what that was.

The way they were to walk in was what? The fear of God. Reverence. Awe. And in that frame they were to disseminate God’s precepts and judgments and law to the people. But absent that frame of the fear of God it is plain that the holy things quickly became common and the regard for them was lost. The form remained, but the reason for disseminating God’s word, and exhorting the obedience of faith, being largely absent, resulted in compromise and apostasy.

Note that a lack of reverence was at the root of it all. That lack displayed the nature of the heart of the priest. Did he guard his heart? Did he call upon the Lord for grace and help to remain faithfully in awe of His God? Did he let little foxes creep in and spoil the grapes and then continue in hardening his heart unto death?

To the eyes of men it’s quite probable that he looked the part of a priest. He had the robes, the rituals and even the words that were traditionally looked for. He was no doubt quite moral and an outstanding member of the community. No doubt he was scrupulous in keeping laws. No doubt he was pious and reasonable and peaceable and many things that men welcome among themselves - that they even like in others so long as there is a benefit of it to them. But without godly fear and absent an undergirding and filling sense of reverence and awe for God these were all empty things.

The worst condemnation is not on account of their personal failure. The greatest judgement is saved for careless, callous and hypocritical recklessness by which those to whom they had been charged to minister were caused to stumble as a result. And remember - the failure was rooted in a lack of reverence, awe and fear of God.

But failure is not only to be found in omission. It is also in corruption. In fact corruption is far worse than omission because it maintains the appearance of religion without the substance, thereby removing people from a sense of guilt, and hardening them against the truth. Western New York comes to mind - the burned out district, as it was called - after the ravages of Finney’s Pelagian heresy and his humanistic methodologies, by which the second great awakening had been largely hijacked and subverted, had run their course.

It was a simple covenant that God made with Levi. Peace and life from God’s side, and reverence and awe towards God from Levi’s side as he walked with God, and was the bringer of His message to the people. Yet like all the covenants with a covenant men proved to be only covenant breakers because their hearts were evil. God always saved for Himself a remnant according to grace - but absent that influence from God’s side, failure was inevitable. God did not cause the failure. God demonstrated forbearance and patience and willingness to forgive. He showed lovingkindness. He gave rope. Though He knew their hearts yet all righteousness was fulfilled in His sincere desire that they not stumble and perish.

But in the end, after millennia of good starts and bad endings it had come to this place, some 400+ years before the coming of Christ. A remnant had been delivered to the homeland from the Babylonian captivity. The temple had been restored and the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt. Worship was restored according to the ordinances of God. And within a short time even this remnant fell into apostasy, led by the priests themselves. It is a punctuation mark upon the human condition. It illuminates the darkness of the human heart. It illustrates the underlying message of the whole Bible - that God must do a work in man or man will forever remain lost.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home